The Hampton Synagogue appears to have been considering an even larger symbolic Jewish religious boundary, known as an eruv, than it originally proposed for Westhampton Beach Village in 2008, according to a copy of a letter sent from an attorney to the house of worship in March.
Months after withdrawing its application with the village two years ago, officials with the Sunset Avenue synagogue apparently asked a Manhattan law firm to also investigate the bylaws of both Quogue and West Hampton Dunes villages, as well as Southampton Town, for reasons still unclear.
But Marvin Tenzer, the president of the East End Eruv Association—the non-profit organization that has been working to establish the larger symbolic boundary—adamantly maintains that the Westhampton Beach synagogue does not have a hand in his current push to establish the larger eruv. The East End Eruv Association is looking to create one that would encompass both Westhampton Beach Village and the hamlet of Quiogue, as well as parts of Quogue Village and the hamlet of Westhampton.
An eruv, which would be delineated by markings known as “lechis” attached to utility poles, would allow Orthodox Jews to push and carry items on the Sabbath, actions that are normally not allowed on their day of rest. The Hampton Synagogue retracted its 2008 proposal after many Westhampton Beach residents protested. Some residents are rallying again against the new proposal by East End Eruv Association.
The letter, which was sent in March from Robert G. Sugarman, an attorney with the Manhattan law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, indicates that the Hampton Synagogue asked him to look into the laws of local municipalities, Suffolk County and New York State, in order to determine whether or not the synagogue would have to apply with any government officials to establish an eruv in the area.
Synagogue officials—including President Morris Tuchman, Founding Rabbi Marc Schneier and Assistant Rabbi Avraham Bronstein—did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment this week. Synagogue officials have not responded to any inquiries by The Press since the East End Eruv Association proposal became public in late August.
In the brief letter, which is addressed to Mr. Tuchman and also sent to the East End Eruv Association, Mr. Sugarman wrote: “You have asked us to research whether there are any local, county, or state laws or ordinances which would require the approval of any governmental entity for the placement of lechis on privately owned telephone poles in the Westhampton area. Our research has indicated that there are none.”
Mr. Sugarman, who did not return calls seeking comment, wrote in the letter that his firm looked over the laws of the villages of Westhampton Beach, Quogue and West Hampton Dunes, along with those of Southampton Town, Suffolk County and New York State, and found no reason for the synagogue to apply with any of them to create an eruv.
On the surface, the letter appears to establish a connection between the synagogue and East End Eruv Association, because it was addressed to both and “East End Eruv Association” appears in the letter’s subject line. Mr. Tenzer has stated in the past that his eruv proposal is “absolutely unrelated” to the synagogue, even though he is a member there.
Mr. Tenzer said this week that the letter obtained by The Press is a copy of a letter that Mr. Sugarman sent the synagogue in 2009. While the synagogue never refiled its eruv application with Westhampton Beach, Mr. Tenzer said he hired Mr. Sugarman’s law firm for his own proposal, and requested a copy of the letter in March for his own applications to the Long Island Power Authority and Verizon for the use of their utility poles.
“The EEEA applications to LIPA and Verizon both required a statement regarding any necessary governmental approvals,” Mr. Tenzer wrote in an e-mail on Monday. “While we understand that the synagogue never formally applied to LIPA or Verizon, we knew that Weil had researched the issue for the synagogue. We asked Weil for any opinion letter they issued on the subject and they furnished a copy of the letter they had sent to the synagogue in 2009, and updated the letter without changing the addressee.”
When asked whether or not the synagogue was at any point pursuing a larger eruv, as is suggested in the letter’s response to the inquiry about local laws, Mr. Tenzer wrote: “I was not involved in the synagogue’s application and have no knowledge of why the question was asked.”
The letter from Mr. Sugarman seems to have aided Mr. Tenzer in his push for an eruv, allowing him to effectively bypass the villages in the approval process. Last week, Verizon send a letter to Quogue Village saying that it planned to allow the East End Eruv Association to attach lechis to its utility poles, despite Mayor Peter Sartorius’s assertion that such attachments would violate village law.